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One in four girls is clinically depressed by the time they are 14


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One in four girls is clinically depressed by the time they are 14, according to new research.

A government-funded study has found that 24% of 14 year olds girls (166,000) and 9% of 14 year old boys (67,000) have depression. Their symptoms included feeling miserable, lonely and hating themselves. 

The results of the study have caused great concern about young people’s mental welfare.

"We know that teenage girls face a huge range of pressures, including stress at school, body image issues, bullying, and the pressure created by social media," said Marc Bush, the chief policy adviser at the charity Young Minds. "Difficult experiences in childhood – including bereavement, domestic violence or neglect – can also have a serious impact, often several years down the line.

The study was undertaken by academics from University College London and the University of Liverpool and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. No reliable studies existed previously into the prevalence of depression among UK teenagers. They found that between the ages of three and eleven small but growing proportions of boys and girls, up to around 10%, suffered from emotional problems such as feeling depressed and anxious, as reported by their parents.

However, while the prevalence of such problems remained constant among boys between the ages of 11 and 14, it rose from 12% to 18% among girls, again based on accounts submitted by their parents.

But when 14-year-old boys and girls themselves were asked about their mental health, far more girls – 24% – disclosed that they were feeling depressed than the 18% whose parents said they were.

Theresa May has announced she will be making young people’s mental health one of her top priorities and a government green paper on the matter is due soon.

Mental health care for teenagers is improving, according to NHS England. "NHS services for children and young people are expanding at their fastest rate in a decade," a spokesperson said. "This year the NHS will treat an additional 30,000 children and young people, supported by an additional £280m of funding."

Image courtesy of Policy Exchange.

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